UDD Skeptical of Army's Stance On Interim PM

UDD leader Jatupon Prompan speaking at a Redshirt rally, 18 May 2014.

BANGKOK — Leader of the pro-government Redshirts has urged the commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army to explicitly announce that he will not, if offered, accept a job as an interim Prime Minister.

"I want to hear from the mouth of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha that he will not accept the role as a non-partisan Prime Minister, before he retires," said Jatupon Prompan, chairman of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).

"In the past, Gen. Prayuth always countered every kind of news. But why is he silent on this matter?" Mr. Jatupon told a crowd of pro-government supporters at a rally on Aksa Avenue in western Bangkok today.

Mr. Jatupon's demand came a day after Gen. Prayuth reportedly refused to comment on the allegation that he is being considered for the job as an interim PM. 

Since acting Prime Minster Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisarn took the premiership on 7 May, anti-government protesters have been calling on the Senate to replace him with an appointed, royally-approved “neutral” PM.

Anti-government protesters claim that the Senate can legally appoint a new PM under of Article 7 of the Constitution, whereas Governmental officials and a number of legal experts have argued that such a move would be unconstitutional. 

Article 7 of the Constitution, which reads:  “Whenever no provision under this Constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be decided in accordance with the constitutional tradition in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”

Speaking on radio talk show yesterday, Bangkok Post "military reporter" Wassana Nanuam claimed that she received texts from Gen. Prayuth saying that Mr. Jatupon will have to take responsibility for his words if his allegation is proven to be untrue. 

He also reportedly said that the military's recent warning to invoke martial law should not be interpreted as a sign that the armed forces is taking sides in the country's political conflict. According to Ms. Wassana, Gen. Prayuth said that the warning was meant to deter all sides from committing further violence on members of the public, and that the military is not supporting any political faction. 

"It doesn't mean we will launch a coup," Ms. Wassana quoted Gen. Prayuth as saying. 

He reportedly added, "Don't accuse the military of bias … they should see who has done what in the past, like what happened in the 2010 [Redshirt mass protests]. Why don't they talk about that? The military was deployed to restore order, but we end up being victimised. Please give us some fairness."

However, Mr. Jatupon said that the Redshirts will not be assured of Gen. Prayuth's impartiality until he denies the allegation himself. 

"If Gen. Prayuth said that he will not be [Prime Minister], we will give Gen. Prayuth the longest applause we can do," Mr. Jatupon said, "But if Gen. Prayuth refuses to act on this matter, we will take it that he indeed wants to be a Prime Minister." 

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